Salon owner: ‘Extortionate’ bill rise could put me out of business
PUBLISHED: 06:11 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 17:19 28 February 2020
A beauty salon owner has vented her frustration at a £4,000 rate increase just four months after she made £85,000 of renovations - saying the rise could put her out of business.
Lipstick & Locks opened in North Street, Sudbury in September last year, unusually combining a hair and make-up studio with a cocktail bar.
However major alterations needed to be made to the Grade II Listed premises, with co-owners Abigail Cutter and Liam Liskus saying the rate rise made it feel like they were being penalised for doing a good job.
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which sets business rates, said it took a wide range of factors into account when deciding how much business should pay.
Meanwhile Babergh District Council said it is looking to support stores like Lipstick & Locks by adopting the government's retail discounts to cut their bills.
Ms Cutter said she was "disgusted" with the rise, which she said came without warning.
She added: "It's an extortionate increase without any warning. Simply because we've made the building look so much better. I think it's ridiculous.
"The last thing I want to do is put our prices up to help towards the rates. That's not a route I want to take at all because then we'd lose customers. It's a vicious circle."
Asked if this could put her out of business, Ms Cutter replied: "Well it could do, yes. It's very, very difficult. And I'm very worried."
James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk, said: "I have publicly stated my concerns about the rather perverse way business rates operate in seeming to punish, rather than reward, investment.
"I raised the impact of business rates on the high street at the first opportunity in the Commons after the election and will continue to call for change."
A VOA spokesman said: "We cannot comment on individual cases.
"The VOA uses a wide range of property information, including rental and other evidence such as location and physical attributes, to compare values across similar types of properties in order to set the rateable value.
"If a ratepayer thinks the details we hold about their property are incorrect, they can see how their valuation has been calculated and update their facts, if needed, by registering with our check and challenge service."
However, in a positive move, the government recently pledged to increase retail discounts.
It means that by April, Lipstick & Locks should receive a 50% discount.
A spokesman for Babergh District Council said: "We're committed to helping our towns and communities to thrive, and economic growth for local business is key.
"Business rates are set by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) - part of HM Revenue and Customs - not Babergh District Council, but we can help our local businesses by offering a range of services, advice and support.
"Thanks to a cabinet decision this week, we can support our high streets by adopting the government's retail rate discounts as quickly as possible in order to help local businesses such as Lipstick and Locks.
"If any business experiences financial difficulties in the meantime, we urge them to contact us immediately so that we can put suitable payment arrangements in place to support them."
Referring to the retail discount increase rising from 33% to 50% in April, Mr Lipkus said: "The councils encourage a community effort and say we all must partake in the high street, yet step back from their duty to help the community when it comes to rates.
"We are holding off our appeal towards the increase, because of this press release and while the alteration of the 17% is more than welcomed, we do have to take it with a pinch of salt. Some rate reliefs are capped at a maximum rateable value so most business don't qualify for it.
"Until full disclosure of the plan is released, we can't get too excited."